Mariners blank Southside in conference opener

Published 11:35 pm Thursday, September 29, 2016

CHOCOWINITY — East Carteret dual-threat quarterback Jacobie Simmons rushed for two short touchdowns as East Carteret cruised to a 26-0 shutout win at Southside on Thursday night.

The Seahawks struggled to gain much offensive momentum throughout the night en route to a loss in their 1-A Coastal Plains Conference opener, which was broadcasted on Time Warner Cable. They failed to get a third-down conversion on a dozen tries and were outgained 397-105.

“They’ve got outstanding coaches, outstanding athletes,” Southside coach Jeff Carrow said. “Coach (Caleb) King has done a wonderful job preparing them. … They had a game plan for every formation we had. We moved the ball a little bit in the second half, threw a little wrinkle in it, but couldn’t capitalize.”

Southside’s offensive woes started right out of the gate. The home side received the opening kickoff and promptly went three-and-out. The Seahawks got a boost shortly after when East Carteret fumbled the ball away on their first offensive snap, but only went another three plays before punting the ball away again.

Kyle Hill takes off on a long kickoff return late in the game. He and Zikijah Crawford had big special teams plays, but the offense couldn’t capitalize.

Kyle Hill takes off on a long kickoff return late in the game. He and Zikijah Crawford had big special teams plays, but the offense couldn’t capitalize.

The defense came up with its first big stop of the evening on the following series. The Mariners ran a sweep on third-and-8, which Joe Myers halted to give his side the ball back. Southside ended up fumbling the ball away to set up the Mariners for their first score — a 2-yard scamper by Simmons.

Defensive miscommunication opened up a chance for the Mariners to set up shop in the red zone. Maceo Donald punched in the Mariners’ second touchdown — this one from three yards out — to put them ahead, 12-0, with 9:47 left before halftime.

Zikijah Crawford ripped off a 47-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. The spark was quickly extinguished when a bad snap left Southside facing a third-and-20. Grant Jensen was called upon again to punt the ball away. He pinned the Mariners back at their 22-yard line.

East Carteret was able to march down the field to take a three-possession lead with just over a minute left in the half. Simmons connected with Malik Collins to quickly move the Mariners into the red zone. Collins scored on a 9-yard run shortly after, then got the two-point conversion, to push his side’s lead to 20-0 going into halftime.

“East Carteret had a balanced attack. They ran the ball a lot more tonight than we thought they would. We thought they’d pass more than that,” Carrow said.

The Seahawk defense came out flying in the second half. Trajan Rhome and Damion Bond put plenty of pressure on Simmons. The Mariners went for it on fourth-and-16, but Myers broke up a pass to give his offense the ball back on East Carteret’s 48-yard line.

Brandon Sullivan and Crawford each rushed for fourth-down conversions. The Seahawks were within striking distance of their first touchdown after Crawford’s 20-yard run on fourth-and-11 put them at the Mariners’ 11-yard line, but they fumbled the ball away inside the 5-yard line.

“We can do ifs and buts all night long,” Carrow said. “If we hadn’t turned the ball over on the first drive of the second half down in the end zone, it may be a different game. Ifs and buts, you can’t do much about that.”

Southside had a few big plays in the fourth, but couldn’t find the end zone. Demetrius Ebron picked off Beau Studebaker. Kyle Hill notched another big special teams play for the Seahawks by taking a kickoff return across midfield.

The coaching staff reiterated the importance of a short memory. They told the players to put the loss behind them and to focus on their next game — a rematch with rival Northside next Friday.